Russian “Korean” Salad (Корейская Морковь)


russian korean carrot salad Корейская Морков
This “Korean” carrot salad is found all over the area that is the former Soviet Union. I certainly saw it popping up here and there during my travels in Ukraine and its environs; I just never paid attention to it or cared to find out what kind of carrot salad it was. Why would I dedicate the space in my digestive tract to a carrot salad, which I could have gotten anywhere, when I could gorge on local vareniki, Baltic sprat sandwiches, and golubtsi?

And so it wasn’t until last winter when I visited a local Kyrgyz restaurant, Jibek Jolu, recommended by Mike Sula of the Chicago Reader, that I came to realize how wrong I was. A dining companion ordered a Korean salad, and I mentally rolled my eyes. Who in their right mind orders a Korean salad at a Kyrgyz restaurant? Well, the salad came, and it looked so tempting that I, in all my glorious hypocrisy, had to mooch a bite. It was a life-changing experience.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that the reason one could order a Korean salad at a Kyrgyz restaurant was because — duh — a “Korean” salad was on the menu at a Kyrgyz restaurant. This means that there’s more to it than meets the eye.

As it turns out, “Korean” salad is more Russian than Korean (kind of like how American Fried Rice is strictly a Thai dish) and most likely the Russian interpretation of something else that originated in East Asia. The history of this dish is largely based on oral traditions which are often conflicting. Even its presumed Korean origin cannot be ascertained with any degree of certainty for “Korean” may very well be used here as a synecdoche to refer to the entire East Asia. One thing is quite certain: the Silk Road was the responsible party.

Whatever the original looked like, after having traveled from East Asia through Anatolia and all the way to Eastern Europe, the dish had become something quite different by the time it became a staple in the Slavic as well as the Central Asian cuisines. Russian “Korean” salad*, or Корейская Морковь (literally, “Korean carrots”), is a marinated salad with fresh carrot as the main ingredient. The dressing is a simple vinaigrette spiked with the mandatory fresh garlic, coriander seeds, and cayenne pepper.

This salad tastes great by itself. It is also wonderful with — believe it or not — coconut rice.

This salad is featured on St. Petersburg’s Times: Read & Feed: Book club fare combines ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ with a Korean salad recipe (by Tom Valeo).

4.7 from 3 reviews
Russian "Korean" Salad (Корейская Морковь)
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Salad, Side Dish, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free
Cuisine: Russian, Kyrgyz, Eastern European, Central Asian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 7 medium-sized carrots, grated into long, thin strands (A Kiwi comes in handy here.)
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced into a fine paste
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ground (or — as I prefer — coarsely-cracked) coriander seeds
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (see notes)
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon honey or 1½ teaspoons of sugar
Instructions
  1. In a small pan, over medium heat, saute the onion in one tablespoon of oil until soft; remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix everything together with your hands; adjust seasonings as needed.
  3. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-5 hours before serving. Kept covered and refrigerated, leftover salad remains good for 24 hours.
Notes
Use an oil that has no flavor, e.g. sunflower, safflower, corn, canola. Olive oil does not work well here. If you have an urge to use a fancy vinegar in this recipe, suppress it. White vinegar works best.

  1. So can we just call it a Russian salad? Just like there’s nothing “Korean” about baek kimchi? Just like jjam pong has always been a Chinese dish, etc.

    • This salad originated from Koreans who immigrated to Russia in the 1860s. That’s why it’s a bit spicy and named Korean carrot salad. But most of Korean (who live in Korea) people have no idea what it kind of dish it is. It just named ‘Korean’ but it’s Russian.

      Well, Baek kimchi is a very smooth style of Kimchi, thus, this salad isn’t like Baek Kimchi, in my opinion.

      In addition, Jjampong is Korean-Chinese dish. Apparently there are two assumptions that one is it came from Japan and another guess is it started by Chinese people who moved to Korea ages ago. Anyway I haven’t seen this dish in any overseas Chinese restaurant. (I mean even in China) Probably they have same style of dish but it has different name. Hope this info helps you.

      • I guess it’s way you see it. Jjajangmyun and Jjam Pong is invented in Korea by Chinese immigrants. Koreans call them Chinese dish although Koreans see both dish as being Korean since they’re invented in Korea with Korean influence and taste. It’s interesting that with popularity of Korean Dramas many of chinese restaurants in China are making this dish.

        Brocolli & beef, orange chicken and chop suey are invented in the US by chinese immigrants. Americans call them Chinese dishes and you’ll rarely find Americans claiming those dishes to be American even though they were created in America for American taste. And many Americans believe them to be authentic Chinese dishes from China.

        So Korean salad is invented by Korean immigrants in Russia and now spread out and enjoyed by former soviet union AND cannot be found in Korea nor Koreans in Korea and outside of former Soviet never heard of this Korean Carrot…It’s obvious that Russians and former Soviets believe the dish to be at the least Korean influenced by the name.

        Now question would be do Russians and Former Soviet believe Korean Carrot to be their own national/cultural dish despite the name like Jjajanmyun & Jjam Pong or some foreign dish that they love like chop suey and brocolli and beef?

        It seems like the former where it’s been adopted, What do Russians and former Soviets think?

        • This kind of salads, and there are many of them not just
          carrot, sold on the russian markets exclusively by Korean immigrants. They also make cabbage and beets salad, cabbage and mushrooms, beets and just cabbage. All of them have same spices and pretty similar taste.

  2. sinosoul – I guess we could. Putting Korean in quotation marks is a loose way to retain the name of the dish in Russian which is literally Korean Carrot.

  3. Carrot salads always surprise me. I’m inclined to pass them up, but when I’m patient enough to give them a try, I’m always glad I did. This sounds like a great one!

  4. I usually make c=my carrot salads the Moroccan way but you have me rethinking that one. This sounds delicious. When I first saw Russian Salad I was thinking that ubiquitous Salad Olivier and the like. This sounds like such a treat. I greet it with “arms wide open” =)

  5. Hmm… spicy “K”arrot salad! Actually, you would be surprised to know the history of Korean-Russians in Central Asia. There are quite a lot of them. Back when Japan was about to take over Korea in the 1900s, many Koreans left the country to escape/protest/ or just out of shear hunger. Then Stalin deported all these ethnic Koreans living close to the Korean-Russian border to where current central asian countries like Ukraine are. And if you live in a foreign soil, I bet these sorts of food like carrot salad might be the best you can do. That’s probably why “korean” salad came from?

  6. Usually I made a simple carrot salad with carrots, vinegar, olive oil and salt, but this morning I made yours and it is super delicious, I really enjoyed it…great recipe, thanks for sharing…

  7. Leslie – I’ve never seen any commercial seasonings for this salad. Does the package have instructions on how to use it? Or are they written in Russian? Please feel free to take a picture of the instructions on the package (if there’s any) and email it to me.

  8. I totally disagree that the the coriander is a MANDATORY ingredient in the salad. I have a Russian co-worker (he immigrated from Russia, he was not born here) who gave me his family’s recipe for Korean Carrots and there is absolutely NO coriander in the recipe.

    I like to eat Korean carrots with spinach and cheese quiche. The flavors complement very well.

  9. I have been wondering about Korean-Russian food for many years and this is the first of any I have encountered…I want more! I live in the US and travel to Korea on business, mostly Seoul. About 10 years ago, I had an opportunity to go sightseeing in one of the southern provinces and we stopped at a temple with a famous golden buddha…a poular destination. I was amazed to see a busload of Russian speaking Korean tourists…they actually had a Russian interpreter who was explaining what the tour guide was saying in Hangul (Korean language.) My Korean traveling companion explained to me that these were the descendants of the Koreans who made their way to Russia during the Japanese occupation. I found that encounter to be so fascinating, and wondering about the food that would result from the mix of two such vastly different cultures.

  10. I had read in a book, not sure if it was about kazakhstan, or korea, I’ve read too many, but it said that due to the “Deportation of Koreans in the Soviet Union,” Almost the entire Soviet population of ethnic Koreans (171,781 persons) were forcefully moved from the Russian Far East to unpopulated areas of Kazakhstan in October 1937. (Wiki) That Korean carrot salad came about, as carrots which grew well, where cabbage did not, thus “replacing” kimchi.

  11. I am from Moldova, an ex-USSR republic,now living in the US. I saw that I had a lot of carrots in my frige and I immediately thought of this salad, which further reminded me of my years back home. Back then You could buy this salad at the farmer’s market, along with the shredder that would make your carrots like noodles. Yum!!

  12. Many recipes for this on the blogosphere . The blogger, Koreafornian, has a good recipe and a youtube vid with both the recipe and a brief recitation of the history.

  13. First of i have to say that i am russian, and i have always loved the carrots, but never knew how to make them. And yes, i have tried the prepacked seasoning, but it is just not the same. I love love love your recipe, thank you very much for posting it. Tastes just like i remember. THANK YOU!

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  15. Just tried Корейская Морковь for the first time. Awesome enough to start looking for the recipe, that’s how I got there :)

  16. This post reminded me of childhood! I am originally from Ukraine – and yes, it’s a very popular and ‘staple’ salad in that area – cooked as directed! We call it ‘Korean Carrot’ in Ukraine, not really even using a word ‘salad’. My mom used to cook it all the time. In the local stores, one would find a special type of carrot grater that would be labeled as ‘for Korean carrot’ – which made thing, long slicing of carrots easy. Because if its not long thin strands then it’s not made the proper way! :)

  17. Found this salad at the Russian store in Fairfax, VA. As a ancient foodie I had to give it a try. Now to make my own-thanks for the recipe.

  18. I have lived there, and yes, its not only thing, the carrots, its beans, and other green stuff. And its all called, ”salad po koreiski” , what means not korean salad but actually by a meaning of recipe been followed by korean style/type/recipe. So yes, i would say its made in korea but assembled in Russia, sort of in a joke way.

  19. Oh, how I miss being able to buy a container of this at any local grocer. Thanks SO much for this delicious recipe – it was (and now, thanks to you, it will resume to be) a top food staple in my life. :))))

    xo Anna

  20. This salad is so popular in my country, Russia. A few years ago I moved to the US and it became more difficult to treat myself with this delicious salad – so I decided to try making it myself:)

    Thanks for the recipe; it sounds relatively easy to make. I’ll give it a try this week, already bought a few pounds of carrots;)

  21. I made this last night and I hit myself in the head for not making enough. Can’t wait to make it again, it is the best side dish to make for yourself and to bring over for potlucks!

  22. Hi, thanks for sharing your recipe! Can you explain what a kiwi is? I have never made this salad because I don’t have the special tool to make the long thin carrot strips, but I buy it whenever I have the chance. I don’t think it tastes as good grated.

    • Jessie – Google “Kiwi Pro Slice Peeler” and you should find several places you can buy online. It should be available at most large Asian grocery stores, but to be sure, I’d buy online.

  23. I lived most of my life in Russia. We would buy “Korean Carrots” on the local veg market and I always believed it was Korean dish.

    You can not name it Russian salad as there are many other popular Russian salads which are really Russian :)

    • Ludmilla, I would argue that you can definitely call it a Russian salad. You can buy it all over Russia, and most Koreans do not know this dish.

      • Jessie, I would NOT argue with you:). BigBoy wanted to know what Russians and former soviets think, so that’s what I think as Russian and a former soviet :).

        Yes, you can find “Korean” carrot at farmers markets in Russia, but nobody in Russia would ever name it Russian salad! You can, if you wish:)
        PS: coka kola is sold all over the Russia still nobody names it Russian drink. Russian drink is “kvas” ;)

  24. Your analogy is off, Ludmila. Coca Cola is sold all over Russia but it’s also available in other countries around the world. This salad is found nowhere else but the countries in the former Soviet Union. Definitely not in Korea.

    I’m Russian and for what its worth this salad is as Russian to me as the others. We call it Korean because we think this is how the Korean people make their salad.

  25. It actually originates with Koreans residing in Central Asia. The best versions of this salad, you will find Korean women selling in Central Asia. Their immigration patterns are easily learned. Thank you for the recipe.

  26. The ethnic Koreans in Russia and former Soviet Union, being removed from their homeland for generations has resulted in a unique cuisine that is all their own–dishes rooted in Korean tradition with Russian ingredients. This salad is obviously a direct descendant of a classic Korean cucumber salad, which consists of sliced cucumbers, garlic, sugar, vinegar, salt, red chili powder, toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds and minced scallions.

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